by Guest Contributor M.Dot, originally published at Model Minority
Two major things happened in Black television in the last week or so.
Rap City was canceled, TRL was canceled and VH1 presented the 100 best songs in Hip Hop.
All of these are interesting because they relate to hip hop. I remember when I first learned that 106 and Park audience surpassed TRL’s about 7 years ago, and I thought to myself, hmm thats interesting. In fact, I think Carson Daly had just left the show for Hollywood.
Recently, I read a quote in S. Craig Watkin’s book which said that black teenagers in general and boys specifically occupy a very interesting place in the American culture. On one level their presence is reviled, their bodies are policed (laws on sagging pants) and they are systematically undereducated (only 35% of Black men starting 9th grade in NYC graduate) yet their “cultural products” are in demand from Madison Avenue to Japan.
In watching the segment on NWA, I was reminded of how far from mainstream hip hop was in the early days. I was particularly tickled when Kurt Lorder of MTV asked Ice Cube a question about the educational system and he responded “We ain’t activist, we give social commentary, we like the news”. I find that this sentiment squares nicely with my my post last week, titled, “Hip Hop Isn’t Political”. What was particularly interesting as well was how none of them were making money except Eazy E and Jerry Heller.
Here NWA was, making their social commentary and not getting paid. I am almost willing, let me repeat, almost, willing to go out on an ledge and say that there was something pure about their music, at that time.
They had no radio play, they sold millions of albums, the free speech folks rallied behind them, and they were not motivated by the money because they (the majority of them) were not making any money.
The marginalization of early hip hop and its subsequent popularity reminds me of how easy it is to go from being shunned by capitalism to being used by it. In many ways Black men are like Detroit, when capitalism no longer needs you, you will be left to figure out what to do with yourself.
It happened to The Chinese, The Japanese, Black folks and it will probably happen to Mexican folks in the next 30 years. [Ed Note - It's already happening. But we will discuss that in another post. - LDP] Cheap labor is America’s best friend.
Back to Rap music. The fact that Rap City was canceled reminded me of all the programming that was once on BET that is no longer shown such as Rap City, Teen Summit, Midnight Love and BET Nightly News. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t look to television for social justice or spiritual up lift, but there is something especially gully about willingly canceling all programming that may have some social value beyond promoting consumption.
Black people stay loving/supporting those who don’t love them back.